The ‘Sake Viva!’ campaign by the National Tax Agency of Japan which encouraged young people to drink more alcohol met with fierce backlash from the Japanese people. Social media users across Japan criticised the government agency for dictating how people choose to live their lives.
The campaign – which is an idea competition – seeks plans from the youth and businesses to help revitalise Japan’s liquor industry and was launched in July. The movement gained traction on Twitter this week and was met with fierce criticism from the Japanese people after it was reported on by news agencies inside and outside Japan.
Japanese brewers say they are unable to stop the decline in sales of alcohol due to health-conscious consumers, Japan’s ageing society and different tastes among the youth.
Brewers are even promoting lower-alcohol products after noticing a sharp fall in alcohol sales at restaurants and bars during the Covid-19 pandemic. These issues are also accompanied by rising inflation.
People on Twitter said that if young people are choosing to avoid alcohol it should be seen positively. They also pointed out that the message is at odds with the health ministry recommendations which encourage moderate drinking.
Tax revenue from liquor sales declined by 11% in 2020, compared to the revenue from 2016, according to data accessed by news agency Bloomberg. The volume of alcohol taxed shrunk by 10% from 2010. In 2020, 7.7 billion litres of alcohol was taxed. Japan collected only $8 billion in tax from liquor sales in 2020.
The ‘Sake Viva!’ idea competition will take applications from anywhere in the world as long as they’re in Japanese. The final date for entries is September 9. The finals will be held in Tokyo on November 10. The participants will suggest promotional methods targeting the young or tapping artificial intelligence and the metaverse to boost sales.
The National Tax Agency told Bloomberg that the campaign is not aimed at encouraging people to drink more. They said the campaign comes at a time when factors like Covid-19 and an ageing population are affecting the alcohol industry and is aimed at promoting it.
The Japanese health ministry said that it is not involved in the campaign but understood the promotional venture launched by the National Tax Agency. They also said it is in accordance with the suggestion it gives people, that is to drink responsibly.
(with inputs from Bloomberg)